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Which Is The Craziest State? Depends On How Much Weight You Give To The Gaetz Scandal

Let's not count Wyoming because it doesn't have enough people to be a state and should just be divided up between Colorado, Montana, Idaho and Utah. Or maybe It could be combined with the 2 Dakotas and just be called Dakota. That would give Dakota a population of 2,240,354, almost as many people as Kansas, which has 2 U.S. senators and 4 members of the House, although I think the combined population of North and South Dakota and Wyoming would just be enough for 3 House members. The idea of 2 senators representing the politically backward area-- instead of 6-- would be what's known in Yiddish as a mitzvah.

Anyway, back to the original question, let's just deal with states that have big populations... like Texas and Florida. Which one is more of a nut house? Last year 5,890,347 (52.06%) Texans voted for Señor Trumpanzee, while 5,668,731 (51.22%) Floridians made the same disastrous error. Using that metric, Texas is a little crazier. But there's some more evidence we could look at. This morning, for example, KUHT, the Houston PBS station, asked why so many of the 1/6 insurrectionists were Texans.

"More than three dozen Texans," wrote Andy Schneider and Lucio Vasquez, "have been arrested and charged with various crimes in connection with the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. That's more than from almost any other state in the country. Those arrested range in age from their early 20s to their mid-60s. They hail from Houston and Dallas, Lubbock and Midland. They include veterans, police officers, and realtors-- people you might find in any Texas community. The question is what drew so many of them to march on the Capitol." Unfortunately, there is no psychiatric data available yet on the people who were arrested in the failed coup. Luckily, though, KUHT found Hava Johnston, a realtor/good citizen in Frisco (a bedroom community in the suburbs north of Dallas.)

Jenna Ryan is perhaps one of the best known Texans accused of breaching the U.S. Capitol. The Frisco real estate broker allegedly livestreamed herself on Facebook throughout the riot, according to court documents. The video went viral.
"You woke up the sleeping giant!" Ryan allegedly said. "You're trying to make us into Venezuela! You know what? We are armed and dangerous!"
Ryan is currently facing four charges: entering and remaining in a restricted building; disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building; violent entry and disorderly conduct in a Capitol building; and parading, demonstrating, or picketing in a Capitol building.
Social media posts also appear to show Ryan traveling with three others. That brought them to the attention of Hava Johnston, another Frisco-based Realtor. Johnston said she helped identify several of the rioters from their social media.
"Jenna Ryan, although we've never met each other in person, I know who she is," Johnston said. "When they go and do something that stupid and that big and that national, it wasn't hard, you know, it came across my timeline."
The type of people who stormed the Capitol, Johnston said, are her neighbors. She said many of them may have held far-right beliefs or conspiracy theories, but didn't talk much about it. And Johnston said she saw signs of such activity as far back as the beginning of the Obama administration.
"This isn't anything new. They used to just be bugs under a rock. Donald Trump kicked that rock over," Johnston said. "This is where they live. This is where they've always lived. They were just quiet about it."
"It is these very people who are holding onto a false reality, who feel threatened because their way of life is slowly coming to an end, or they see that they are losing power, they're losing control," she added.
That’s something familiar to Kerry Noble, a former white supremacist and Christian nationalist who lives near Fort Worth. Noble has dedicated his life to spreading the word about the threats posed by extremism.
"People want to feel like they still have control in their lives, and when they don't feel like they have control, and they feel like they're very discontent with life, then they are more apt to go extremist one way or the other,” Noble said.
But the roots go much deeper in Texas, according to Noble. He pointed to a combination of factors that make Texas a hotbed for such extremism. He cited the state’s strong gun culture and a deep streak of Christian fundamentalism, as well as its history as a briefly independent nation.
"You've just got a history of people, because of the independence that Texans feel, that when they start to feel pressured, they don't just idly sit back,” Noble said. “When they start feeling like government is coming against them, then they're pretty quick to stand up.”
Even before the march on the Capitol officially began, some prominent Texans were firing up the crowds in support of then-President Donald Trump. State Attorney General Ken Paxton spoke at a rally outside the White House, with his wife state Sen. Angela Paxton, R-McKinney, at his side.
"I want you to know that Texas fights," the attorney general said. "We fought 12 straight lawsuits related to mail-in ballots, related to signature verification, federal court, state court, Travis County, Austin, Houston. We fought. We won every single one of those cases, and because of that, Donald Trump won Texas by over 600,000 votes."
The Attorney General's Office is seeking to withhold all e-mails and text messages Paxton sent or received while in Washington. ProPublica and five different Texas publications-- the Houston Chronicle, the Austin American- Statesman, the Dallas Morning News, the San Antonio Express-News, and the Texas Tribune-- are currently working together to try to obtain the documents.
Seventeen Texas Republicans voted that day to reject the results of the 2020 presidential election. And Briscoe Cain, a state representative from Deer Park who now chairs the House Elections Committee, traveled to Pennsylvania to help the Trump campaign challenge the results of the 2020 election.
Other experts agree that Texas has a unique culture that breeds such extremism. Brian Hughes-- associate director of American University's Polarization and Extremism Research and Innovation Lab, which tracks far-right extremism-- said many of the characteristics of extremist ideology flourish in the Lone Star State.
"Very frequently, what we see is the intersection of that ideology and culture, looking at an idealized version of the American founding and the American frontier, the role of the rugged individual, and the role of gun culture,” Hughes said. “Texas has a reputation of taking pride in all of those things.”
Even if most of the Texans in the Capitol Insurrection were self-radicalized, at least some of them had ties to organized militia groups like the Three Percenters.
That's no surprise to Lindsay Schubiner, a program director at the Western States Center, who said Texas is home to 20 antigovernment groups, including six paramilitary groups-- a higher concentration than most other states, Schubiner said.
The attack on the Capitol likely was not a culmination of far-right activity, but a new beginning, Schubiner warned. And it’s likely to provide a deep pool of new recruits-- particularly in Texas.
"We saw white nationalists side-by-side with QAnon adherents, with Proud Boys, with other folks who may not have been affiliated with specific groups but may have been influenced by far-right conspiracy theories,” she said.”So, it's also a moment when far-right and white nationalist groups, I think, are able to recruit from a much larger number of Americans who've been influenced by dangerous far-right conspiracy theories."

Move to Texas... they'll be your neighbors (or cell mates)

No real hint between Florida and Texas from Alan Feuer in today's NY Times: "When the political scientist Robert Pape began studying the issues that motivated the 380 or so people arrested in connection with the attack against the Capitol on Jan. 6, he expected to find that the rioters were driven to violence by the lingering effects of the 2008 Great Recession. But instead he found something very different: Most of the people who took part in the assault came from places, his polling and demographic data showed, that were awash in fears that the rights of minorities and immigrants were crowding out the rights of white people in American politics and culture."

Still... Florida's not giving up the title without a fight. We could start with Florida's currently best known elected official, the inimitable Matt Gaetz from right next to Alabama. I want to point to two back-to-back Politico pieces, Trump and his allies abandon Gaetz from yesterday and Florida's Trump country stands with Gaetz from this morning. Contextually, there's whiff of sanity in the first piece... so let's look at the one by Gary Fineout this morning. "Most well-known Republicans," he wrote "are doing their best to avoid Matt Gaetz-- but not conservatives in his ruby-red district in Florida’s Panhandle. As the embattled 38-year-old congressman denies sex trafficking allegations at the center of a still unwinding federal investigation, Republicans in the heart of Trump country are deeply suspicious of the accusations and still support him."

As I mentioned earlier, 51.22% of Florida voters went for Trump last year. In Gaetz's panhandle district, that number was much worse-- 65.9%, even worse than the 64.5% who voted for Gaetz himself, despite the fact that Gaetz has made headlines for years for things elected officials are not supposed to be in the news about.

“I believe this is nothing more than fake news,” said Larry Hetu, a Gulf Breeze activist who is part of a group trying to get a local bridge renamed after former President Donald Trump. “I don’t believe anything coming from the mainstream media. Rep. Gaetz has denied it all.”
The allegations against Gaetz-- violating federal sex-trafficking laws and having a relationship with a 17-year-old, among other things-- would be enough to send most backers fleeing. But Gaetz hails from an influential Florida political family and is a staunch ally of Trump, which in this conservative stronghold counts for a lot. Gaetz has held this congressional seat for four years, and since that time has been a constant defender of Trump, which has helped fuel doubt over the torrent of negative media attention now showering down on Gaetz.
As Gaetz vows not to resign, the support from his district signals that the embattled congressman could weather the scandal.
...The allegations have caused many prominent Republicans, including those in Florida, to remain tight-lipped. The administration of Gov. Ron DeSantis, an ally of Gaetz who relied on the member of Congress to fill out his administration after the 2018 election, has said the governor will not comment due to the ongoing investigation.
Gaetz, for his part, has not been waiting for the probe to wrap and instead continues to strongly deny any wrongdoing. In an op-ed for the Washington Examiner, the combative Gaetz said that “I am absolutely not resigning.” Gaetz began the article by stating that “let me first remind everyone that I am a representative in Congress, not a monk, and certainly not a criminal.”
...Former State Rep. Mike Hill, a Pensacola Republican who previously clashed with members of his own party after he joked about gay people, said people in the area told him that they just don’t believe the allegations, especially since some of the key stories were reported first by the New York Times.
“They believe it is an attempt to take out a conservative,” said Hill, who adds that he has told people to “wait and see” before rendering a final decision.
Pensacola Republican Greg Merk, a former Navy pilot who was crushed in the 2020 Republican primary by Gaetz, is also waiting to see the results of the investigation. Merk rails against Gaetz as someone whose position on everything from marijuana to LGBTQ issues is out of step with the district he represents, but also said “I’m not going to condemn a guy,” adding the allegations are “hardly surprising.”
Merk, who has already filed to run for the seat again next year, contended that conservative media outlets were staying away from the story because they had helped build up Gaetz over the last four years.
“Just because it’s something from the mainstream media, I’m not dismissing it,” Merk said.

The Politico story from yesterday noted that the reason TrumpWorld has steered clear is because Gaetz has "always been regarded as a grenade whose pin had already been pulled" [and because he] "had a reputation for a wild personal lifestyle that, associates say, occasionally bordered on reckless. Some of Gaetz’s own aides would regularly send embarrassing videos of their boss to other GOP operatives, according to two people familiar with the videos" [being not a monk presumably]. 'Anyone that has ever spent 10 minutes with the guy would realize he’s an unserious person,' said one former Trump campaign aide."

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